Many people have a distinct fear of growing older, especially when it comes to the physical limitations they might start to encounter. Concerns about memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease contribute even more to these fears. However, having what is called a “senior moment”, when you forget where you left your keys or can’t recall the mailman’s name, is much different than Alzheimer’s disease, which is a degenerative brain disease causing physical changes to the brain.
Having the knowledge to debunk some of the biggest Alzheimer’s disease myths will help ease some of your concerns and can help you recognize what memory loss is part of the normal aging process.
Alzheimer’s Disease Myths
1) Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented. There are a lot of ways out there to help keep your brain “healthy,” but unfortunately there is no way to prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Lifestyle choices, like eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels low, exercising daily and challenging your brain through new hobbies and continued learning, can help reduce the risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Early detection and diagnosis are also key to receiving the best treatment for the disease.
2) Alzheimer’s is part of the normal aging process. Experts say that although it seems like the majority of seniors develop Alzheimer’s disease, actually the opposite is true. As we age, our memory does change, but only significant memory loss and personality changes are signs of Alzheimer’s.
3) If your relatives have Alzheimer’s, you’ll have it too. While genetics do play a role in the chances of developing the disease, only a small number of cases are known to be the inherited form of the disease called Familial Alzheimer’s disease or “early onset.” However, if your parent carries the gene mutation for Alzheimer’s, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the disease yourself. Experts do note that the genes do not cause the disease, and people who do not carry the mutated gene can still develop Alzheimer’s.
4) Alzheimer’s is a disease affecting only the elderly. By age 85, almost half of the population will have experienced at least some memory loss or dementia, and the older we get the more likely we are to develop Alzheimer’s. The majority of Alzheimer’s disease cases do show up after age 60. However, early onset Alzheimer’s can show up in middle age and in some rare cases has been shown to affect those in their thirties.
5) An Alzheimer’s diagnosis means you will be violent, aggressive and/or unresponsive to your environment completely. While personality changes are common with Alzheimer’s disease, becoming violent and aggressive does not always occur. Some people can become restless, suspicious and frequently wander. But not all those with Alzheimer’s become unresponsive and unaware of what’s going on around them. Even though memory abilities are changing, Alzheimer’s patients still have feelings and need social connections. It’s important to maintain a consistent routine and learn how to best communicate with your loved one, whether it be through a soothing voice or even music therapy.
6) There are very few treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Every day, researchers are making advances in Alzheimer’s disease treatments. Several types of drugs are available that might delay or improve some of the symptoms of the disease, as well as new strategies to help improve quality of life for those affected. There is always hope.
An Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis doesn’t mean that your independence is over completely. If you start noticing some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in yourself or your loved one, seek treatment as soon as possible. Remember to focus on what you can still do, not what your limitations are.
For more information about memory care at American Senior Communities, please visit www.ascseniorcare.com.